The New Blackface: Meet the Instagram Models Who Are Pretending to Be WOC

emma hallberg skin tone

We all know that people tend to fabricate things on social media and not everything is what it seems. But when you pretend to be another race for attention and compensation, we’re going to have a problem.

Recently, a slew of Instagram models who appeared to be black or biracial has been called out for being neither. In fact, they’re Caucasian, and what they’re doing is a new form of blackface. As a biracial black woman, it hurts me to look at these models who are creating the illusion they’re black, or even half black, and making money by doing so. It’s difficult to see these white women darken their skin and change their features to look like us, get praise for it, and then turn around and act oblivious.

It all started when Swedish model Emma Hallberg posted a YouTube video of her makeup routine where her foundation was around three shades darker. Some followers even thought that Emma was half black. But if you look at old Instagram pictures of her, there’s a significant difference in how she looks.

emma hallberg black
Left: Young Emma Hallberg, Right: Emma Hallberg circa 2018

Emma has addressed the controversy, and in an Instagram DM conversation, she wrote,

“Yes, I’m white and I’ve never claimed to be anything else. And by the way, there are no ‘before’ pictures. The pictures that have been spread are just two different pictures taken on two different seasons of the year, one before summer and one after summer. And of course, there’s a difference in my skin tone because I get very tanned NATURALLY when I’ve been in the sun.”

Now, people are free to change their looks whenever they want to, to claim that her skin tone changes that drastically in the summer is ludicrous. I’m naturally tan all year round, and the difference between my summer skin tone versus my winter/ fall skin tone is not that different.

You can argue with me and say that they were just tanning their skin. But it goes beyond that. I grew up in New York City, during the height of the Jersey Shore and Growing up Gotti era. I went to school with white girls who spent their free time in tanning beds, and trust me, they never got that dark.

What bothers me the most about this whole entire situation is not that they are just darkening their skin, but that their entire aesthetic is a stereotype of the urban black woman. They do their hair up in braids and turbans and lay those baby hairs down to the gods. They inject their lips, butts and thighs to make them look more voluptuous.

jaiah fern skin color
Left: Young Jaiah Fern, Right: Jaiah Fern circa 2018

Many black women carry a narrative of our features being made fun of in our adolescence. That our lips were too big, hair too kinky (shout out to the girl in middle school who said my hair was rough like horse’s hair), and that our butts and thighs were too big. Black women have been ostracized for centuries for not fitting into the Eurocentric ideal of beauty. We have tragic stories like that of Sarah Baartman, who was exhibited in zoos because of her large buttocks and was used as a sex slave. In the 1700s, black and mixed women of New Orleans were forced to cover their hair in tignons, as their elaborate hairstyles were seen as a distraction and caused quite a stir among white men.

And while these girls aren’t technically claiming to be black, they certainly do everything they can to give that impression. The desperately want to look black, which that in itself is a problem. As the saying goes “everybody wants to be black until it’s time to be black.” They get to play around with looks, emulate our culture. But they don’t have to deal with the black experience.

I would have less of a problem if they would just admit what they were doing instead of acting so innocent because it’s clear that their Instas weren’t as poppin’ before they started changing how they looked.

Now if you want to follow some amazing black women that deserve just as much recognition and praise, check out Amanda Seales from Insecure, Leigh-Anne Pinnock of Little Mix, and Tatiana Gabrielle Hobson from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.


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Alysia Stevenson
Alysia Stevenson is a twenty-seven New York City transplant currently living in Florida with her boyfriend and three furbabies. When she's not writing, you can find her watching beauty tutorials on Youtube or Parks and Rec for the millionth time.